What Money Can't Cure


Over the weekend Afghan President Hamid Karzai blamed the corruption of his government on a deluge of American money. Matt Steinglass zooms out:

Why, in the famous Green Beret refrain, were their Vietnamese so much better than our Vietnamese? For over 40 years, we've known the main answer: it's because the incentives we've offered our protegés, by throwing money at them, have destroyed their capacity to act as a unified self-interested governing force.

The first problem is that America seems incapable of acknowledging this dynamic. The second problem is that, even once we've recognised it, we don't seem to know what else to do. What can America do about Afghanistan besides spend money on it? What possible American solution to Afghanistan's problems (as we perceive them, anyway) could involve not spending over four times the country's GDP?

(Photo: Smoke and fire burns NATO fuel trucks in Jalalabad on November 14, 2010. Three civilians were killed and 20 others were wounded in home-made bomb blasts in eastern and southern Afghanistan on Sunday, the government and local officials said. By STR/AFP/Getty Images)